The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday that it will delay the implementation of certain provisions of its new hemp-growing regulations, pointing to hindrances that the requirements could pose to the relatively new industry.
“USDA is exercising its enforcement discretion to adopt a temporary policy of non-enforcement for producers,” the department wrote. The non-enforcement will occur in circumstances where growers cannot test their product with a lab that is certified with the Drug Enforcement Administration or who do not dispose of their hemp product according to the proposed regulations if it contains above 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol. THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is found in marijuana normally at much higher amounts.
The USDA’s interim hemp rule is now in effect, except for the two provisions subject to non-enforcement. Those will apply beginning on Oct. 31, 2021, or upon the publication of a final rule. The department still considers plants containing THC greater than the 0.3% limit to be controlled substances and will conduct audits for disposal.
USDA did, however, give growers options for disposal, including plowing over, mulching or burning. The original rule required destruction by local or federal law enforcement.
Gov. Jared Polis welcomed the re-evaluation, saying in a statement that he was “relieved that the USDA and Sec. [Sonny] Perdue are recognizing the concerns that Colorado raised in our comments on the interim final rule. This move will help create more job opportunities, and will help our farmers and our economy.”
In January, the Polis Administration and Attorney General Phil Weiser sent a letter to the USDA objecting to the requirement in the interim rule that growers destroy all crops containing more than 0.3% THC. They estimated that for Colorado’s approximately 87,000-acre hemp industry, the USDA’s rule would have resulted in the destruction of $154 million in crops had it been in effect in 2019.
The department acknowledged the need for additional time to address lingering concerns.
“We now better understand how the limited number of DEA-registered labs will hinder testing,” the USDA wrote in its announcement, “and better understand the associated costs with disposing of product that contains over 0.3% THC could make entering the hemp market too risky.”